The Beating

[Author’s Note: Originally written September 2014]

Another blow. Right cheek this time. Doug fell back, hitting the sidewalk. His skin scraped hard against the cement. A gash on the left cheek. Two shadows loomed. The brutes. One fired a kick into his gut. The other spat in his face.

“Fucking fag!” the spitter taunted.

Sprawled on the ground, he tried to use the fence to get up; reaching with his hand he felt the coarse limestone of the fence. The kicker saw this and aimed another kick at his chest this time. He felt the wind get sucked out of him and keeled over onto the sidewalk again. He moved onto his back this time. He lay there and let the spitter and the kicker deliver more kicks to his torso. They got bored after a while and left him alone, beaten and bruised on the sidewalk. Perhaps they went home. They were gone that was all that mattered. He propped himself up using the fence. He looked over and saw his light blue bag sad and defeated on the edge of the road. Spewed out of the bag were the novels he’d borrowed from the library, his pens and pencils which had been flung from his mangled pencil case, and his maths textbook. Grabbing his bag and throwing everything inside he made a move for home, hobbling the final block or so. He dragged himself onto the porch and got out his key, opening the door. He made his way to the kitchen, grabbed a tea towel and some ice. Cobbling together an ice pack he set it on his eye and sat down. His parents wouldn’t be home until five. He looked at the hands of the clock on the wall. Quarter past four. He would have to endure for forty-five minutes.

It wasn’t like this was the first time this has happened. The kicker and the spitter lived down the block from him. He didn’t know their names. Plenty of kids beat him up at school. When you’re small you make for an easy target. The beating had never been this bad though, and a teacher had always intervened. Today there was no adult in sight, or perhaps it was the sight of an adult that sent them away. He didn’t like to think about what they would’ve done if they hadn’t been stopped. Why the attack though? The kicker and the spitter lived nearby but he’d never encountered them before. There was no neighbourhood barbeque where everyone got together. Nobody was socialising over a casserole, everyone was locked inside on their computers either watching TV or doing their homework, and there he was, sitting in a room that was slowly getting darker with a wet tea towel over his eye, which felt less swollen now. He moved the melting ice pack to his cheek and tried blinking. Ow. Eye still hurt. He’d have to keep the ice on it longer. That might be a problem. As his face hurt less he turned his mind to his breathing. It was steady. The adrenaline had worn off. He seemed to be in one piece. No reason to go to the hospital. His mother would insist on a hospital trip but from experience he knew it was minor. Well not minor, but minor in the sense that he would be told to go home and allow for time to heal. Obviously he would have to take a few days of school. Despite the beating it took he was kind of looking forward to a few days off. Maths was boring him out of his brain, and the rest of his subjects were only just bearable. The one solace was the one thing he was, and always had been good at, English. He’d had A’s in English since he could remember. He knew that was his calling. Escape this town, move to New York or San Francisco and write like his heroes, Tolkien, Heinlein, Howard, Asimov, to name a few whose works he chased with an ever expanding interest. His eye wondered to the clock on the wall. 5:05. His mother would be home any minute.

His mother walked in the door. Noticeably haggard from work she threw her handbag onto the table in the hallway. She collapsed in a heap onto the couch. She looked over at Doug. He smiled as the ice melted over his face. She sighed.

“Damn it Doug” she sighed. “What did you do to provoke them now?”

“I didn’t provoke them!” he exclaimed. “These two just came out of nowhere”

“That’s ridiculous. You must have done something to provoke them” she started getting agitated then.

“Maybe I’m just too clever for my own good” he retorted.

“Don’t be a smart ass” she barked. “Did you recognise them?”

He tried remembering their faces. Big and meaty, just like their hands. They were almost identical except one had a nose that slightly more bulbous than the other. He relayed all he could to his mother.

“Sounds like the Silver twins. They moved in recently. The boys have been in and out of trouble. I should talk with their mother” she explained.

The Silver Twins, they sounded like super villains. Comical in a way. But they weren’t. The bruises weren’t heroic blows, they were everyday blows.

The next day Doug’s mother took him to the Silver house. The yard was unkempt, no attempt had been made to mow it in months, at least. The porch was a small elevated box area in front of the door. The glass that made up the porch walls were cracked and broken, cardboard covering one or two holes. The cardboard had been graffitied with tags. Doug’s mother knocked on the faded blue wood of the front door. She knocked firmly and resolutely. They waited with no response. Doug’s mother knocked again.

“I’m comin’” came a squawking voice from inside.

The door opened rapidly. In the doorway stood a woman as large as the Silver twins. She wore a bright pink top and grey sweatpants. She was short and her hair had begun to grey.

“What do you want!?” she squawked again.

Her open mouth revealed missing teeth, like some horrible caricature. The lines on his mother’s face became pronounced and he realised how tired all of this made her.

“Your sons beat up my son and we’ve come after an apology” his mother asserted.

She looked Doug up and down, focusing on his swollen eye. She squinted at the two of them and turned halfway around, craning her neck behind her.

“Henry! Alistair!” she shouted through the house.

The sound of thudding footsteps approached the door. They stood behind their mother indignant.

“This boy says you hit him. That true?” she asked in a serious tone.

The boys scowled.

“We didn’t do nothing.” they said boorishly.

A double negative. He doubted anyone cared that the boys had just admitted their guilt. If he’d bothered to bring it up no one would’ve cared, a poor grasp of syntax is no confession.

“They say they didn’t do it” their mother repeated.

He spoke up.

“You think I gave this to myself?” he interjected.

“I don’t know what you do to yourself, pussy” the bigger one with the bulbous nose stated.

He got angry again, but if he lashed out they’d prove his point and his mother would’ve humiliated herself in front of these people.

“It’s your word against his” their mother said.

They were defeated, as he knew they would be. It was his word against theirs.

“Mum, let’s just go” he told his mother.

His mother huffed, but also resigned.

“Sorry to have bothered you” his mother apologised.

Before they could leave the mother made a move to go inside.

“Get inside you little shits” the mother said to her sons, slapping them both over the back of the head.

She then slammed the door in their faces. His mother defeated, and him with bruises and no justice.

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